Sense & Sensibility the Musical is like a plate of petit fours – dainty, pretty, proper, confined, tidy and sweet – just as it should be. It’s a fun escape into a world that has a slower pace and is elegant and refined and yet which has many similarities today, namely in the delight people take in gossip and scandal. Whispers and hand-delivered letters of juicy tidbits and drama are replaced by fleeting posts on Twitter today. We can all relate.
Jane Austen fans will either be delighted at how the play captures the prim essence of life at that time or they’ll be frustrated by it. The storyline is an adaptation of Austen’s original version and doesn’t follow the same plot twists or even characters. And they may feel their favorite characters aren’t properly represented by the musical numbers. Some of the costumes appear to be from the wrong era, pretty though they may be. The lesson? Go to Sense & Sensibility with fresh eyes and an open mind in order to enjoy it for what it is. Leave your preconceived notions of the story you love out in the lobby.
As usual, Denver Center creates clever but minimal sets that suggest different locations, times of day and season. A writing table, chair and window rise from below the stage for one scene, suggesting the house in the country, then disappears as a massive, framed painting of London slides in with a grand staircase to show that the action has now moved to London – the big city. Of particular note are the park statues, brilliantly crafted to look like stone but that come alive and sing.
Despite the odd mix of era, the costumes did an excellent job of capturing the personality of its wearer. Staid and simple for Elinor; pink and sweet for Marianne and heavily detailed and fanciful for the energetic and comical Mrs. Jennings.
The music was sweet and sentimental, reminiscent of a 1950’s musical. Thankfully, the words were all understandable and were clever. However, they all sounded a lot alike with several reprisals. Still, their tone fit the play.
Highlights were “A Quiet Life” between Elinor and Edward in which Edward reveals the kind of life he’d prefer to lead. This is sung at the top of a hill that is an integral part of the set. I heard director/choreographer Marcia Milgrom Dodge say in a Colorado Public Radio interview that she purposely puts the couple there because, at that point, their relationship is on something of a precarious cliff. Marianne and Colonel Brandon sing a beautiful duet in “A Second Chance.” “In Society” sung by all the busybodies is clever, talking about the “anxiety” of maintaining ones’ place in “high society.”
The actors were an impressive lot, most of whom were previously on Broadway. Their acting came as naturally as their singing – sweet and soprano for the women, rich and baritone for the men. Stephanie Rothenberg, who played Elinor Dashwood was beautiful with her dark hair, creamy skin and controlled, always-do-the-right-thing persona. Mary Michael Patterson, as her younger, more passionate-about-everything sister, Marianne, was high energy and suited her role perfectly. Ruth Gottschall (Mrs. Jennings), was the kind-hearted, meddling comic relief throughout the play.
Denver Center is promoting this show heavily in radio, print and TV. It is a big production that must have cost a pretty penny so they’ll need the push. The audience on opening night was mostly over age 55, well-dressed, proper and enjoyed the play thoroughly. I hope a more varied crowd will take it in throughout its run through May 26 for several reasons: It’s fun; is a good view of life in the 1800’s; is a lovely dose of propriety in this day and age (oh, I sound so old!) and it’s a charming little confection of a thing for Jane Austen fans. Now excuse me while I pour myself another cup of tea, with two sugars and a bit of lemon, of course.
Sense & Sensibility the Musical plays at the Stage Theatre at the Denver Center for the Performing Arts.
Join us in Good Taste:
“Like” In Good Taste Denver on Facebook.
“Follow” In Good Taste Denver on Twitter.
Pin it! on Pinterest.
InGoodTasteDenver on Instagram.
Write to us at email@example.com.